Scotch whisky is the oldest dated popular whisky, first mentioned on record as far back to the late 15th Century and is produced only in Scotland and its surrounding isles.
Scotch whisky doesn’t denote a particular taste of aroma – more accurately described – it outlines the standards and production methods Scottish distilleries use to create and age their whisky.
The five main whisky producing regions are Campbeltown, Highland, Islay, Lowland and Speyside, located on the four coastal lines of the country.
Although these regions are in direct competition for export, the styles of whisky they offer are vastly different.
Subtle changes like the mineral makeup of their water, coastal winds and the variants in the mashbill can all make a significant difference in the finished whisky.
And it is because if this, the four regions co-exist, each exporting vastly different, high-quality whiskies enjoyed all over the word.
Grained and Malted Scotch whisky
Scotch whisky comes in two main varieties – grained and malted. Malted whisky has to be distilled from only malted barley and is mixed with water, whereas grain whisky uses other cereals like maize, wheat or rye.
Single malt and single grain whiskies are generally produced in older distilleries, which use traditional methods to create more expensive and higher-quality liquor.
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The act of combining these different whiskies has been historically frowned upon by older Scottish distilleries, as frequently the single grains were blended or bulked out with cheaper ingredients to save money.
Blended Scotch whiskies are now viewed as more of a science, and with new technologies being more widely accepted, blending is used to improve on high quality scotch, and is not seen as just as a cost cutting measure.
Classifying Scotch Whisky
So what makes a scotch, scotch? With Scottish whiskies ranging through from light and sweet cereal based to peat soaked Smokey flavours, scotch is classified specifically to ensure its quality in production and country of origin – with the flavour following on.
According to the Scotch Whisky Regulations – formally made legislation in 2009, for scotch to be scotch, the whisky must be produced in Scotland at a distillery from only water and malted barley, with the only added material being whole grains or cereals.
Further to this, the whisky must be aged in oak barrels for at least three years, and any mention of a number on the bottle has to truly reflect the age of whisky, commonly referred to as an age statement.
With regards to quality, Scotch whisky must also reflect and revel in its traditions. The most common tasting note is that scotch mostly maintain the colour, taste and smell of the raw materials that the whisky is fermented and matured in.
Mostly these materials are oak casks or barrels, which are wonderfully porous, allowing the surrounding air to permeate during maturation, giving the whisky the woody, chest warming smoke that all good scotch is famous for.
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